Opinion

The Manhattanization of Mercer Island

By Dan Bertolet March 23, 2010

Over the past half-dozen years, downtown Mercer Island has sprouted seven midrise multifamily projects within a few-block radius. It's an impressive transformation. Let's take a look-see, shall we?  (Click all photos to enlarge).

First up: 77 Central, with 171 apartments and 13,000 square feet of commercial space, designed by Mithun, and developed by Seco.


Nice corner.

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Apparently someone with some influence likes pitched roofs on mid-rise. Not I.

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The back side faces a bike/ped trail with public art.

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Next door to 77 Central, we have 7800 Plaza, with 24 condo units, 10,000 square feet of commercial space, and three levels of underground parking.  TSA Architects had some fun with this one.


One of those love-it-or-hate-it designs.

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Circling back to the west along Sunset Highway, we have Aljoya, with 114 assisted living units and 95 parking stalls, designed by Weber Thompson:



Big back yard.


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Aljoya's front door, on 76th Ave SE.

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The next three projects were completed between 2004 and 2006.

First, kitty corner to the southeast from Aljoya, behold the colossal magnificence of The Mercer, a 235-unit apartment/mixed use project designed MVE & Partners out of Irvine, CA. Lawrence Creek had some spot-on things to say about this thing back in 2006. In short, it's one those buildings that gives density a bad name.


Out of place: both the car and the building.

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Not a nice corner.

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Now back to the east, across SE 27th St from 7800 Plaza, the full-block Island Square project, with 210 apartments, 11,000 square feet of office spac, and 31,000 square feet of commercial space, designed by Mithun.

The photo below doesn't look like a 210-unit building. That's because the designers intentionally split the project up into five architecturally distinct buildings. It's a design trick that some criticize as dishonest, and it's tough to pull off, but I think it succeeds fairly well. The Mercer building (shown above) is a prime example of what they were trying to avoid.


Pitched roofs again, but it works better here than it does on 77 Central above.

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The back side faces a more typical Mercer Island downtown context.

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The west edge runs along 78th Ave SE, which has received a nice pedestrian-oriented streetscape treatment.

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Next up, two blocks south of Island Square, a sad beige mediocrity known as the Avellino Building, with 23 apartments, designed by Antonio D’Ambrosio Architect.



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And one more—sorry, no photo: Newell Court, with 40 apartment units, located a block south of the Avellino Building.

That's a total of 817 new housing units, plus gobs of new pedestrian-oriented commercial space.

In a word: Transformative.
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